WISE COUNTY, VA â€“ Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Sierra Club and Appalachian Voices today lodged a consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia resolving their 2014 Clean Water Act enforcement suit against Penn Virginia Operating Company. The suit sought to address unpermitted discharges of selenium and sulfate into several tributaries of Callahan Creek in Wise County, VA. Both pollutants are known to be harmful to aquatic life.
As a result of the settlement, A&G Coal Company – which operates a neighboring mine – will treat three seeps currently discharging selenium into the Kelly Branch tributary of Callahan Creek.
â€œSelenium pollution is widespread below surface mines and can have long-term impacts on fish and other wildlife. Treating this pollution before it has a chance to enter public rivers is important not only for the rivers themselves, but also the people who rely on them,â€ said Matt Hepler
The settlement also requires the companies to provide $35,000 for the initial cleanup assessment of a nearby abandoned coal processing site, known as Tipple Hill, in Norton, VA. Once the site has been restored, it could be included in the Norton Guest River Walk project. The Tipple Hill project is supported by the City of Norton, the Virginia DMME, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable.
â€œWe are pleased to not only clean up several sources of water pollution in the area, but also to contribute to a project that will address a long-standing problem in Norton and benefit the community as a whole,â€ said Erin Savage, Central Appalachian Campaign Coordinator for Appalachian Voices.
â€œWhile the deal still requires approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice, we’re confident the agencies will recognize the benefits the agreement will provide to the local community, which has suffered tremendous harm from mountaintop removal coal mining, such as higher rates of pollution-related illness,â€ said Gabby Gillespie, a Sierra Club organizer based in southwest Virginia.
The consent decree settlement agreement will be lodged with the court for 45 days pending review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The groups were represented in this litigation by attorneys with Appalachian Mountain Advocates.